[Editorial note: As the “John” in this story was an extremely famous person, well known to any sports fan, and as his kids are alive and might sue, I have changed the names and some of the details of this story to protect my ass. Otherwise, the story is true.]
I first heard that the son of John the Legend was a member of the house while I was a high schooler attending a weekend pledge party. During our weekend of beer, quarries and whoring, I had caught glimpses of Little Johnny either driving off in his red Corvette or standing in the parking lot encircled by friends, but I didn’t meet him. In fact I was warned away from him; the word was that Johnny was crazy.
So I had to meet him.
Walking into Little Johnny’s room on the third floor of the house (the senior floor) sometime during my first week of school, the thing that struck me was the large fish tank in the middle of the room, but there was only one fish in it, a six inch long, buck-toothed, nasty-looking thing, gray in color but turning salmony then pinkish as the coloration stretched toward its mouth. My immediate reaction was That’s the ugliest fish I’ve ever seen.
I musta said something to that effect, because Little Johnnie, who’d been napping on the bed, probably sleeping off the slaughter of more brain cells, moaned something that sounded like, “Paauunna.”
I didn’t look over at the bed, I was too transfixed by what looked like Jaws in a can. But I managed an intelligent reply. “Huh?”
I heard a stirring behind me, a few muffled curses. I assumed Little Johnny was rolling out of the hay to go barf in the bathroom. I kept my eyes on the fish, who was eyeing me in return.
Behind me, I heard a door open, a gentle whooshing sound, followed by the rustling of Saran-wrap. A moment later, a slab of what looked like sirloin splashed into the tank and caused me to jump. Immediately, the fish was onto the meat and in about a second-and-a-half, it was gone. “Whoa!” I said, jumping back. “What the hell is that?”
“I said, ‘Piranha’, dumb-ass”, mumbled Little Johnny.
I whirled around. “You’re kidding?”
L’il Johnny was holding his head. “Ooh, not so loud.”
“That’s a piranha?” I said, my eyes wide. I had of course heard of these Amazonian terrors, and once I saw a picture of one in a World Book.
“You don’t believe me? Put your finger in there.” L’il Johnny was moving toward me and I was stepping back. I didn’t like the look in his eyes, sorta like Jack Nicholson would look in a few years in that Stephen King flick as he was peering in through the smashed bathroom door...
“No, I believe you. Thanks.” I was standing by the door now, ready to make a quick exit.
Johnny stumbled up to the fish tank, stuck his pinkie in and moved it along the glass in a quick darting fashion. The fish followed his finger tracks and started and stopped, sorta like a dragster at the line at Raceway Park. I had the impression that Johnny and the fish had played this game before. I wasn’t able to do a finger-count, but maybe it was the gauze bandages on Johnny’s arm which led me to this conclusion.
About then, my fraternity father, Stan, walked in. “Did he tell you how he terrorizes his dates?”
I shook my head.
“Go ahead, John, tell him.”
Johnny frowned and withdrew his finger. Without another word, he slunk over to his bed and tumbled once more into it, facing the wall.
Stan. “He gets them up here, then tells them if they don’t put out, he’ll feed their arm to the fish.”
My jaw dropped. “You’re kidding!”
Stan shook his head. “Nope.”
“Has he ever done it?”
Johnny rolled over, his hands holding his head, agony on his face. “Not so loud! I was just kidding them…. What’s the bid deal anyway?”
Stan walked over to me, put his arm on my shoulder and turned me around. As we exited, he whispered, “It’s a good thing Johnny’s got money…”
* * *
I didn’t see much of L’il Johnny that Fall, but occasionally I heard of him. It seems Johnny had a penchant for putting his fist through plate glass windows in downtown Bloomington, especially those of theaters which dared to show movies that didn’t measure up. When I did see him, I couldn’t help but notice the gauze on his arms. The guy wore more bandages than Michael Jackson.
Come Spring, I was busy organizing a Spring Break trip to Grand Bahama Island. Several sororities were going, and that was enough for us. I was assigned to make the arrangements. It proved to be easier than I thought; I just called the same travel agent the sororities had used. We nailed a package for $150 per and filled up a plane.
A week before we were to leave, Johnny came to see me. “I want to go too.”
“We’re full up John. You should contacted me earlier. We don’t have any seats left.”
“Sell me yours. I’ll pay you five times what you paid.”
I was tempted, but I’d gone to great lengths to set up a scenario with a pretty Chi O, and I wanted to consummate the deal Oceanside on a blanket in soft sand under a full Bahamian moon. “No can do, John. Sorry.”
“Look, you don’t understand. I’m going one way or another.”
“Then you’ll have to make your own arrangements or buy somebody else out. Sorry, John.”
Little Johnny called his daddy who chartered a plane for him. This wasn’t the first time daddy had come to his rescue. In his freshman year, L’il Johnny wanted to play basketball, so daddy put in a full court, paved and all in back of the house. And daddy didn’t go cheap. This time, he chartered Johnny a commercial airliner, and Johnny permitted anybody who wanted to go to fly free. The result was that my flight suffered cancellations, which meant we all had to pay more.
Upon our return from a glorious Spring Break, etched forever in my memory by a victory at sea, a successful strike at the curse of virginity the pleasure of which had only been partially dulled by an excess of rum, Johnny came visiting.
“You got a date for Little 5?” he asked.
I hadn’t begun to think that far ahead. I was still strutting around the house showing off the scratches on my back, pretending that I was in pain. “Not yet,” I responded. “Why?”
“My parents are coming down and they’re bringing my sister. She’s a high school senior, not bad looking. Wanna go out with her, maybe double with me and my date?”
“I don’t think four will fit in your Corvette, John.”
“No sweat. We’ll grab my dad’s Lincoln. We’ll do the race, then dinner, followed by the Kingsmen Concert and dance. You like ‘LOUIE, LOUIE’ doncha?”
There was no better anthem for the sixties than “LOUIE, LOUIE.” The Kingsmen had just about made Indiana their home since Matthew Welsh had banned the song from the airwaves.
“Are you kidding me?” I said. “Who doesn’t?”
“Yeah, but you gotta treat my sister right. No getting drunk, no pawing her and stuff. If she has a bad time, she’ll tell my ma, who will kill me, then I will have to kill you.”
I was excited to meet his family. His father was a legend afterall. And then there was the money. I mean, his father had invented a whole industry! And this was BEFORE he became a sports legend; that was yet to come.
The Saturday morning of Little 5, Johnny and I drove to his parent’s rooms at some hotel in downtown Bloomington. I had never been to this hotel and now I can’t remember its name. I just remember his parent’s room was the largest hotel room I had ever seen. The door was opened by a tall, thin but buxom blonde wearing a thin robe and not much else. Her shoulder length hair was wet, but kissed her shoulder much as I’d like too, with a touching dart, a swift pass.
I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
“Let me introduce you to my mother.” L’il Johnny said, and my mouth must have dropped because I saw mom’s azure eyes gleam and the hint of a smile cross her lineless face. How on earth had this woman borne two kids? I wondered. She looked to be my age, maybe younger.
Oh well, if her daughter looked anything like momma…
No such luck. Carla was tall and lean but had no chest at all. Her face was one large freckle which matched the color of her hair. She was so pasty I feared she’d need sun block in moonlight.
Johnny was watching me closely as I was introduced to Carla, monitoring my reaction I’m sure. I glanced at him as I flashed my best cover grin but was distracted a moment later by a sparkle of bright light. Turning back to Carla, I noticed her braces reflecting a beam of sunlight around the room like a laser off a reflecting mirror.
No way was my tongue darting through that cage door…
Despite myself, I had a good weekend with Carla. She was intelligent and fun, sorta like the kid next door. We didn’t come close to making out, though, although I did give her a peck on the cheek when it was time to leave. Once we got to the dance, L’il Johnny and his date left us, ditched us would be more accurate. I guess there were some things little sisters weren’t supposed to see…
I didn’t meet John Senior that weekend. His wife said he was in meetings to buy something. In fact, I later learned, he wasn’t even there. He was on the West Coast buying the franchise upon which he would gain national fame.
Carla came down again that summer and I went out with her again. She’d lost her braces and had picked up some curves; that or she’d stuffed herself with Kleenex tissues or foam rubber. Even her freckles seem to have faded and her skin was looking more like milk than parchment. She was developing quite nicely. We had dinner and pledged to stay in touch, although she said she planned to attend the University of Colorado instead of IU.
For the next year, Carla and I wrote each other occasionally, and once or twice I called her at home. L’il Johnny had graduated, so there was no longer any reason for Carla to come down to Bloomington with her family. She invited me to come see her in northern Indiana where her parents lived.
One weekend that next summer, John and I took Carla up on the invite. She’d arranged a date for John, someone she assured me would meet with his approval. So we left early afternoon one Friday for the long drive north.
We stopped in LaPorte and found a motel which we could afford. Since we were going out with classy chicks, we thought we should at least have access to a shower. Then, while John did just that, I left to pick up Carla. We’d pick up John’s date later.
The trip to Carla’s estate took about thirty minutes, although as there weren’t many signs, I had to stop and ask directions. On my way, I found a florist, and breaking from my usual mode, bought some red roses. Boy, was I going to make an impression!
Finally, I found an estate that could only be theirs and I turned in. There was a mansion up ahead, so I pulled over and brushed my hair, before pulling ahead and into a parking area.
The mansion was huge, at least ten thousand square feet spread over three stories. It was tucked into a nook carved from a forest of blue spruce. I counted six chimneys on the house and there was a four car garage on the side, unattached. Feeling small and insignificant, I made my way to the front door and pushed the button. After a minute or two a large black woman came to the door. “Is Carla in?” I said.
The woman’s broad lips pulled back and her eyes glowed. “Why, you at da maid’s quarters, sonny. Da main house is up da road.”
I musta looked like Inspector Clouseau sitting naked in the car in the Paris intersection because the woman smiled at me again and winked. “Don’t you worry now, sonny. Dis happen all da time. You just go on up the road. I’m sure Miss Carla is waitin’ for ya.”
Pulling my fractured dignity around me like a cloak, I returned to my car, not daring to glance at the house for fear of seeing laughing, peering eyes in the windows.
I won’t describe the main house except to say it dwarfed the maid’s quarters in all respects. Carla must have seen me coming, or maybe she’d been forewarned, because she met me at the door and gave me a kiss like we were long separated lovers.
And how I wished! Not having seen Carla in a year left me gawking at the changes in her. Gone was the immaturity, gone were the freckles, while front, center and prominent were the breasts. Even Carla’s legs had taken shape; I swear they had turned from sticks to carved beauties. And her skin was silky smooth, the color of light pearl. Her eyes glowed green, although I later discovered that was the result of contacts, and her red hair flowed to the middle of her back. Ooh la la, why had I brought John?
Carla brought me in and sat me in a couch in the sitting room, plopping down beside me and wrapping her arms in mine. I leaned over to give her a kiss but she pulled away, which surprised me. I looked at her for some explanation but she shook her head and put a finger to her lips. Anxious now, I looked around for a camera but didn’t see any.
“We’ll go in a minute,” she said. “My mother wants to say hi. Johnny’s out of town.”
I nodded and prepared to lean forward for another try, but again Carla peeled back, her eyes darting around nervously.
I started to say something, but about then I became aware of a cat mewing behind me. Thinking a paw was about to swat my head, I turned half-way around… and met the face of a white haired man.
“Eeeeyow!” yelled the white haired crazy man, as he jumped up from where he’d been crouching behind the sofa and came leaping out in front of me. “I got you!” he yelled, cackling like Doctor Jekyll.
I jumped to my feet and clutched my chest, somehow resisting the impulse to beat this goofball to death. Glancing at Carla, I saw disgust on her face. “Well, I guess it’s time you met daddy. He thinks what he just did is funny.” She was shaking her head.
About then, Carla’s mother walked into the room. “John! You should be ashamed of yourself. When are you going to grow up?” Other than the look of consternation on her face, Carla’s mother looked as fetching as she had when I first met her, although I missed the robe-effect and the sight of so much skin. Today, she was dressed in a jeweled jeans outfit that probably cost more than my car.
John Senior was still laughing. He had dropped into a chair across from us and was holding his guts as his face turned red and his white hair shook. He looked to be in his fifties and for a moment I wondered if he was going to have a stroke.
We spent about a half hour getting to know the old man, or rather letting him get to know me, and a curious one he was. But then, of course, I was going out with his baby daughter. One can’t be too safe, you know.
John asked about my parents, my major, my goals in life, and for the moment at least, I seemed to pass muster. I didn’t really ask any questions myself. I have to admit, I was awed by the man. Remembering how crazy L’il Johnny was, realizing that the crazy gene had come from somewhere, and having just seen the old man in action, I wanted to make off with the fair Carla as fast as I could.
We were finally released with a firm instruction for Carla to be in by Midnight, and then we were off, back to pick up the other John.
As it turned out, John’s date was a stunner too. Tall and firm, with long black hair, Mandy looked as if she’d just stepped off the New York runway. She had high cheek bones, a raised chin, pouty lips and coal black eyes ready to combust. It was hard for me to believe a girl so attractive could have brains too, but she was a Michigan freshman and last time I checked, Michigan didn’t admit based upon one’s picture. For once, even John seemed awed by a woman’s charms.
We ate at a South Bend hotel restaurant, one recommended by the girls because we didn’t have reservations anywhere else. And since we were underage, it was a dry dinner although we’d had a few pops of vodka beforehand and after. Talk at dinner was lively and fun, and afterwards, we parked and sucked face until the girls turned into pumpkins. As I kissed Carla goodnight, she suggested we go to the beach the next night, there was supposed to be a full moon. My ever-ready blanket in my trunk and my hormones raging, I thought that was an excellent idea.
I broke the news to the others on the way to Mandy’s and was pleased at her endorsement. I knew I didn’t have to ask John.
John and I slept restlessly, our woodies reminding us of what he next night would bring. I didn’t look, but I’m sure my sheets needed washing. They were a bit stiff if you know what I mean….
The hours of the next day passed like concrete through a long, thin pipe. We couldn’t pick Carla up until five and we were up at dawn. So, we decided to tour Chicago. Afterall, there wasn’t much to see in Da Region.
Come four-thirty, we were at Mandy’s door. She’d dressed for the occasion, cutoffs and a sweatshirt, braless — you know, a college kid’s negligee. I was afraid John might shoot in the car.
I pulled into the right house this time, and ran up to the door for Carla. Her father opened the door and without saying a word motioned me in. Once I was inside, he motioned for me to sit on the couch., then he sat in the chair facing me.
Uh oh. Had I done something? Carla’s father just sat looking at me.
“Is Carla about ready?” I said.
John Senior raised his hands to his mouth and made like a megaphone. Then he raided five fingers.
“Five minutes?” I said, a little relieved.
John Senior nodded. Then he lowered his hands and laid them out in front of him, palms up. He saw me staring, so he gave me a quizzical look and began moving his right hand, his pinkie out in rapid circles.
I didn’t have a clue what he was doing. The crazy gene came to my mind again.
A frustrated expression crossed John Senior’s face. I turned to look at the doorway, hoping to see Carla as I said, “I’m sorry, sir, but I don’t know what you’re saying.”
I turned back to see John Senior holding his hand to his ear, shaking his head, then pointing first to his eyeball and then to my mouth before making a back and forth motion between me and him.
He repeated his motion, and as he did, Carla came into the room. “Oh, don’t pay attention to him. He’s pretending he’s deaf and dumb.”
Huh? I had met the guy last night. Guess I’d made a lasting impression…
“Daddy, you met him last night,” Carla said, confirming my insignificance. “You talked to him for a half hour after jumping out from behind the couch.” She turned back to me. “You haven’t seen his full bag of tricks yet. Wait until he shows you his mad dog routine.”
“Mad dog?” I said, and I saw a look of pride in John Senior’s eyes.
“Yeah, and he does a good dancing homosexual too, don’t you Daddy?” Carla was smiling in proud that’s my Dad way.
John Senior pointed to his ears and shook his head.
“Okay, Dad. We’re leaving now.”
John Senior must have heard that. He jumped up, took Carla’s hand and pointed to the twelve on his watch.
“Dad!” she said. “It’s Saturday night. Can’t I stay out past Midnight?”
There was a firm shake of the head and John Senior looked at me, then ran his hand under this throat. Carla and I both nodded. On the way out, I guessed Mandy and Carla had coordinated outfits. I mean, they were both wearing the same thing, just different school names on their fronts. I remembered John Senior’s hand across the neck motion and hoped he hadn’t noticed the naked bounce of her boobs.
All the way to Michigan City and its beaches, we sipped vodka mixed with ice and grape juice. Carla was scootched over against me, letting my right arm brush against her left masterpiece, while I could occasionally hear face-sucking in the back seat. We stopped at a McDonald’s so we wouldn’t run out of energy and wolfed down our burgers and fries.
It was about six-thirty when we arrived at the beach, with Carla and Mandy directing the way. They led us to a parking lot, where we could unload our stuff and truck it to the beach. As John and I lugged the blankets and cooler, Mandy and Carla ran ahead to find a suitable and cozy beach spot.
Now, I’d never been to the park before, and I had no idea how far it was to the shore, nor how hard it is to walk in those dunes let alone to carry about thirty pounds of cooler and stuff. And both John and I were wearing shoes, another big mistake. As our shoes became more sand-filled, we trod more slowly and twice had to stop to empty the damn things. We should have just taken them off, but with blankets and cooler, well, our load was awkward. Plus, the cooler’s handles were already biting into our hands; we didn’t relish adding more weight to the load, no matter how light it might be.
So we stumbled on, sweating profusely, attracting flies and mosquitoes with our manly musk.
It must have taken an hour for John and me to find the freakin’ water and the girls. We were exhausted. But no sooner did we arrive, then Mandy said, “You know, there’s a breeze by the lake. It’s chillier than I thought. We need a fire.”
Carla. “Oh, that’s a good idea, Mandy. Did you guys bring some wood?”
Well, we had, but the burning we’d anticipated would not cause smoke. And our wood couldn’t be whittled, just massaged.
Our panicked expressions must have given us away. “We’ve got to have wood,” Carla said. “Haven’t you guys ever done this before?”
Isn’t it amazing how women can make a guy feel so inadequate?
“Well, maybe you can find some along the shore, you know, driftwood...”
As the girls laid out on our blankets and fixed themselves a drink, John and I turned to the water’s edge. As we left, Mandy purred, “Hur-ry ba-ack.”
I wanted to scream.
We walked at least a mile, finding only scraps. At some point, we decided it was useless to carry what we were finding down the beach and back. We would just deposit our sticks and pick them up on the return. Problem was, we weren’t finding much.
In the light of the full moon, John could make out trees to the right across some expanse of sand. We headed in that direction, treading through that Goddamn sand again.
Well, the trees were further away than they looked and it took us about forty-five minutes to make it there, two rest stops being required. But we found some limbs that would pass for logs and we made our way back, both of us loaded down. After all, this was not a trip we wanted to make twice….
The trip to water’s edge took longer coming back and four rest stops were required. By now, our scent was more than musk-fresh; it was bordering on dead meat rotting.
Realizing we couldn’t return to the girls like this, John and I stripped then plunged into the lake.
Now realize, neither John nor I had ever been to Lake Michigan before. Okay, we may have seen it while driving by, but for sure we had never swum in it. Hailing from Ft. Wayne, John was used to Lake Wawasee and I was used to Lake Monroe, both shallow lakes which heat up quickly in summer. We had never experienced anything so cold as Lake Michigan.
It’s a good thing we screamed underwater, because the girls might have run off thinking we’d been axed to death slowly. I’m sure they would have heard those screams even from our distance. Our balls shriveled up into peas and may have moved back up the canal. I thought I still had a penis but my hands were so cold I couldn’t feel it. My breathing was coming in gasps and my heart was racing even though the blood it was pumping was turning into sludge. Somehow, I made it out of the water on feet I could only guess were still there, and saw John right behind me.
“JESUS! Th-a-at’z cc-old!” I managed, as shivering made my muscles largely useless. I fell to my knees and saw John drop down beside me. The sand was warm, it was still remembering the afternoon sun. I laid down and rolled, trying to cover my body in earth’s natural heat. Gradually, my shivering became more controlled.
John was the first one to stand, brush himself off and step into his jeans and sweatshirt. I followed his example. But the only way to entirely rid ourselves of sand was to plunge back in, something we WOULD NOT DO.
So we made the best of a bad situation: We grabbed our wood and walked wide-stepping all the way back to the girls. Trust me, every step was misery, like having sandpaper for shorts and running a marathon. I swore I’d never go to a beach again.
It was ten-thirty when we arrived back at the blankets, although my watch had stopped and John told me it was only nine. I have no idea why I believed him. Probably because I wanted to.
The girls were furious at us, as you might expect. Mandy was making noise about going home, while Carla was just giving me the silent treatment. Since neither of them was wearing a watch, John did his best to placate them by saying that we hadn’t been gone that long, after all, it was only nine o’clock.
I don’t know if they bought this or were just lonely or drunk. Or maybe the fire we built helped. Regardless, they thawed enough for pleasantries — like saliva and tongue exchanges.
As my hand moved under Carla’s sweatshirt, she blocked its forward progress with a sudden start. “Your hand and arm are all sandy. Eeuw!”
I may have heard an echo but I think it was Mandy.